By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The funniest thing about the trade deadline — besides all of us getting fooled by a fake Twitter account at least three times on deadline day — is this idea that you’re going to give up nothing and get another team’s treasure.
Seriously, every fan-created Bruins trade began with “Chris Kelly, Jordan Caron, and a second-round pick…” for like five years straight. It was only by year four that they were willing to include Alex Khokhlachev and maybe Malcolm Subban. Sometimes these trade-for-gold trades become reality, but with many general managers straight-up embracing stubbornness in recent seasons, the idea that you’re going to have to give (and give something real) to get is more real than ever before.
And the Bruins, who are in on pretty much every high-impact player to be had, know this.
Even if they’re seemingly waiting out the market for any potential discount that can come their way.
So while they wait, let’s take a look at who and what the Bruins could dangle out there in pursuit of a 2020 Stanley Cup.
On the NHL roster
David Backes – Though technically not on the NHL roster, it’s no secret that the Bruins would love to get out of the final year and change of the David Backes contract. Buried in the minors in status only, Backes is currently counting for $4.9 million in dead cap on Boston’s books (burying his $6 million cap hit in the minors only freed up a million or so in space). Backes, meanwhile, would like an NHL opportunity even if it’s not in Boston. (It won’t be.) And if they’re unable to find a trade, a buyout this summer would see the 35-year-old Backes account for $4 million in dead cap money on their 2020-21 books. In other words, they’re gonna try like hell to ditch this deal, and there might be a market. How real that market is, especially with Backes’ modified no-trade, depends on who you ask. But as I’ve said and written before, I’d still expect the Bruins to pull a Matt Beleskey and desperately try to attach Backes (with money retained) to a deadline trade.
Anders Bjork – The Bruins are finally reaping the rewards of a healthy Anders Bjork. Derailed by season-ending shoulder surgeries in his first two pro seasons, Bjork has proven to be a fantastic fit with Charlie Coyle on Boston’s third line, and has even seen some time with David Krejci on the Black and Gold’s second line. With nine goals and 18 points through 50 games, and with regular time earned on both the power play and penalty kill, it’s enough to make you think the B’s have a keeper here. But it will also lead sellers to ask about Bjork’s availability in deadline deals. I believe it would take a lot to get the Bruins to bite on a Bjork trade. They’ve just been so, so patient and waited for this version of Bjork to show up on a pro rink and that chemistry with Coyle could be a legitimate difference maker in the postseason. At the same time, however, their organizational surplus of left-shot wings could make it interesting if Sweeney thinks he can hit a homer that pushes the B’s over the top.
Danton Heinen – Now in his third full season in the NHL, let’s do some quick math here on Danton Heinen: After recording 47 points in his rookie year (the most by any Boston rookie since Sergei Samsonov), Heinen is currently trending towards yet another dip in offensive production, as he’s set to drop from 11 goals and 34 points last year to 10 goals and 31 points this year. It’s not a staggering drop, but it’s a drop nonetheless, and that’s assuming he’s in the lineup every night for the remainder of the season. That’s been no certainty, either, with some recent healthy scratches to Heinen’s name. His defensive work has been great for the Bruins, and it’s remained steady this season, but if the Bruins are fully healthy, their left-wing combo of Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, and Brad Marchand essentially forces Heinen to his off wing. (He’s better on the left.)
And if he remains in competition with Karson Kuhlman on the right, a deadline addition leaves the Bruins with three guys fighting for two spots on an over-the-limit roster, and with Heinen ($2.8 million through next season) making the most out of that group. And you have to wonder if the Bruins are asking themselves just how much better Heinen is going to get in Boston?
Even as a card-carrying member of the “Heinen Is Serviceable, You Rubes” Club, it’s not hard to wonder about his future.
John Moore – In just the second year of a five-year deal worth $13.75 million, John Moore has remained the seventh-best option on the Boston backend. Now, Moore deserves some credit: He’s coming back from what seemed like an absolutely miserable shoulder injury, and his timing seemed to be an issue upon his jump back into things. But the Bruins brought Jeremy Lauzon back into the NHL mix after Moore was benched in Pittsburgh, and it’s likely Moore would have remained in the press box as Boston’s healthy scratch had it not been for Brandon Carlo’s absence to a personal issue back home and Lauzon’s two-game suspension. I don’t want to full on say that the Bruins are looking to ditch Moore — he’s loved by his teammates and this is one tight-knit room, so that’s something to consider — but if there’s money that needs to be moved in a deadline deal, he seems like a candidate, as his contract (while long) isn’t restrictive in terms of its $2.75 million cap hit.
Jeremy Lauzon– If you wanna be a true conspiracy theorist here, the Bruins have been showcasing the 22-year-old Lauzon to the rest of the NHL for three weeks, and he’s passed with flying colors. Another left-shot defenseman (the B’s have about a billion left shots, in case you didn’t know), Lauzon has one goal, nine hits, and five blocked shots in seven games this year. Dealing Lauzon would be dealing from a position of organizational strength, of course, which is why he’s on this list at all.
(UPDATE: The Bruins have signed Lauzon to a two-year extension, which makes him unlikely to be traded.)
In the pipeline
Peter Cehlarik – Tweener Peter Cehlarik hasn’t played in the NHL since Nov. 8, and he didn’t do much, even with an assist to his name. And that was after Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy essentially called him out and said he needed to show more. It seems fair to say it’s over for Cehlarik as an NHL talent for the Bruins, and with 13 goals and 28 points (both rank third among all Providence skaters) in the AHL, a change of scenery as a deadline throw-in is probably for the best for all parties.
Trent Frederic – 2016 first-round pick Trent Frederic seems to be finding his game for the P-Bruins. A bit too timid with and without the puck in his brief NHL samplings, Frederic has turned it on for Providence, with seven goals and 21 points in his last 32 contests, and has upped his nastiness with an AHL-leading 118 minutes in penalties. Frederic is finally looking ready for the pro ranks (he probably could have stayed at Wisconsin another season), so getting the Bruins to bite on moving him would likely come with the B’s landing one of the market’s top options with similar intangibles (Chris Kreider, Josh Anderson)
Zach Senyshyn – I still think it’s too early to throw Zach Senyshyn out of the Black and Gold’s club. After all, he’s looked solid in his NHL showings. But maybe the Bruins try to maximize on Senyshyn, who has not found his scoring touch in the AHL since returning from a lower-body injury suffered in Boston (two goals and five points in 18 AHL game), before things get worse. (But, again, I’m going down with the ship when it comes to Senyshyn being a worthwhile long-term project for the B’s, and part of that is because I don’t see him being part of a massive deadline boom for your team in 2020.)
Oskar Steen – NHL insider Pierre LeBrun offered up Oskar Steen in his proposed deal between the Bruins and Ducks for forward Ondrej Kase. Seems like a weird name to seemingly pull out of nowhere, so let’s add him to the list. Steen, a 5-foot-9 forward in his first year in North America, has six goals and 16 points in 48 games for the P-Bruins this season.
Jack Studnicka – I don’t see the Bruins moving Jack Studnicka. I really don’t even want to include him on this list, but you know somebody’s going to ask if he’s available. Especially if the Bruins are swinging a deal for a player with term. Hell, the Bruins were even curious about getting Studnicka (18 goals and 36 points in 48 AHL games) another NHL crack before the deadline before the Coyle-Bjork connection took flight as a legitimately viable one-two on the Black and Gold’s third line.
Urho Vaakanainen – Like Studnicka, it’s hard to imagine the Bruins bailing on the 2017 first-round pick this early into his career, but he’ll probably come up in trade talks. Vaak’s plus-14 rating is third-best among all Providence skaters this season.
Jakub Zboril – The other member of the 2015 first-round yet to make the full-time jump, Zboril has now appeared in 178 AHL contests. He’s also played in just two NHL games. The Bruins had Zboril stick around the team to get some ‘NHL life’ experience, but he’s probably seventh on your left-shot defender depth chart as of right now, which isn’t exactly the most encouraging thing to hear. It just gets harder and harder to see how this kid breaks in with the Big B’s.
2020 first-round pick – Now this one is tricky. Sweeney has also traded a first-round pick one time in his entire tenure as general manager (to the Rangers as part of the five-piece package for Rick Nash in 2018), and he really only did that because he wanted to take the chance on going all-in, but also because he felt that the B’s would have had a strong shot at re-signing Nash in the offseason. Concussion problems threw that plan out the window and Nash into an early retirement. If the right deal presents itself, and elevates the B’s from contender to favorite, Sweeney also has to consider parting with a first this year, no? You only have so many more kicks at the can with this roster and with increasingly limited financial flexibility.
2020 second-round pick – Should the Bruins pull the trigger on a mid-tier scorer (think Marcus Johansson last year), you have a feeling that a second-round pick and more will be the going rate. Sweeney traded his second rounder last year for Johansson, and moved a second in 2016 in exchange for Lee Stempniak. According to many, the asking price for Kings forward (and obvious B’s target) Tyler Toffoli is expected to be a second-round pick and a prospect.
2020 third-round pick – If the Bruins identify a depth defenseman as a need, this could be the price they pay to acquire such an asset. It’s what they paid for Nick Holden in 2018, and part of the price for John-Michael Liles in 2016. Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon, an industrious minute-eater with some nasty, is a player that the Bruins have been linked to.
2021 fourth-round pick – The Bruins do not possess a 2020 fourth-round pick thanks to last year’s Johansson deal, so you shift your focus towards 2021. This could be a sweetener in a deal for a forward, or could be the price for a Tommy Wingels-like depth move up front. Given the amount of bodies the Bruins have up front both here and in Providence, you’d have to think moving a fourth-round pick would be part of the ask for the former and not the latter. (For the record, fourths have been Sweeney’s favorite pick to trade since becoming the B’s GM, as he’s moved fourth-round picks — either natural or by way of conditions met on deals made — on four separate occasions since 2016.)